Additional Notes

Chapter 6:
A matter of life and death on the Downs

We start the notes where we start the chapter, at the celebrations that marked the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable - a short-lived technological glory of the Victorian era of enterprise, when no problem would remain unsolved after the lavish application of technological wonders in walnut cabinets and the twist of brass taps.

Given its status as the world’s first near-instant exchange of information across an ocean, the transatlantic telegraph cable is rather Steampunk, as this report of the celebrations makes clear.

Algal blooms in the Celtic Sea

Here’s a gorgeous image of the southwest coast of Britain and northwest coast of France off which, towards the bottom left of the picture, you can clearly see the algal bloom, caused by the back scatter of light from billions of tiny white calcite tests (miniature shells) attached to countless individual algae known as coccolithophores. All the algae - a form of phytoplankton - are photosynthesising, extracting Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and making their food from it. This is how chalk was made during the Cretaceous period, only in a shallower sea, with more available Carbon Dioxide and a lot more coccolithophores.

Photo NASA/Earth Laboratory